Handyman on Call

Pine is just fine when it comes to clapboards

By Peter Hotton
Globe Correspondent / September 4, 2011

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Q. My painter/handyman, who is painting my house, said I have to replace some of the cedar clapboards. I said OK, and he put new ones up. Later I found out they are pine. I checked to see if that was OK and was told by one source that pine should not be used on a house. What can I do? — BOB, from Salem

A. Sit back and relax, and let him do his job. Pine is perfectly good as clapboard, but must be kept well painted or stained. Pine has an advantage of not getting cedar bleed, which is brown water leached from the cedar; the tannins in the cedar color the water brown.

Q. Is it possible to paint ceramic tile? — VIRGINIA ROBILLARD, Watertown

A. Sure can, but only on walls, not floors. Wash the tile with a strong detergent solution. Apply a thin coat of a latex primer sealer, also called enamel undercoater, then two coats of an eggshell finish interior latex paint. Thin coats spell success. You could apply a latex semigloss enamel for a slight shine, but it might not stick as well as the eggshell finish.

Smoothing a garage floor To people who have had problems making concrete floors smooth again, Carolyn Cooney of Quincy may have the answer:

She called to tell the Handyman that she found a nonepoxy finish called Sparta-Flex, out of Denver, and sold by Northeast Floor Coverings of Weymouth. Carolyn added that her attached garage floor is so broken up that it resembles an English muffin. Concrete floors are often covered with an epoxy, but either way it is worth trying. While the epoxy may not fill the nooks and crannies of the muffin-like surface, it can smooth them out.

Q. My manufactured house has a shallow pitched roof. I am seeing a strip of mold along the lower edge of my shingles, right where the water drips off. How can I clean it off? And keep it off? The mold is green. — AL CONTE, Weymouth

A. Green? It’s not mold but algae. Remove it with a mix of one part bleach and three parts water. Apply this mix, let it sit a few minutes, then scrub with a soft bristle brush. Repeat with the mix, then rinse. The algae grew because the roof near the edge is slightly flared, and water slowed down as it headed over the edge, and the roof stayed damp longer.

You can keep it away by installing a zinc strip under the row of shingles below the ridge, with 2 or 3 inches exposed. Water running over the strip will pick up dissolved zinc as it runs down the roof, preventing new growth.

Q. Someone dropped a weight on the tempered glass top of my patio table, shattering it. What can I use to replace that top? — BOB AHERN, Tewksbury

A. You could put in a new glass; just drop it in place on the metal frame, but it must be tempered, not plate or any other kind. Or, try smooth-side up marine plywood.

If you have trouble with the plywood warping, try what I tried successfully: Place 1 x 6 pressure-treated boards spaced 3/8 inch apart and secure them with cross braces screwed into the back with solid brass screws. Turn the assembly over and drop it in place. You may have to cut the cross pieces a little short so they will clear the metal frame that holds the top in place. Stain the plywood with a semitransparent stain. Leave the table untreated or stain it.

Q. I need a bathroom on the first floor with a shower, but my bedroom is way too small for one, and the idea of building a bump-out for the extra space is inappropriate. As it is now, I have to climb the stairs to get to the shower and tub, which is getting less attractive to me. My kids suggested a power chair attached to the staircase. Do you know anything about them? — PAT HACKETT, Weymouth

A. I think the power chair is a good idea, and they have been around for a long time, so they are reliable. My only experience with them was in the wonderful movie, “Witness for the Prosecution,’’ in which Charles Laughton, the ailing prosecutor, was given one in his chambers. He hated it until he took a ride or two on it.

Q. The wood gutters on my 1882 Victorian house are 50 years old and need replacing. They are nailed or screwed to the rafter tails, which are exposed to the weather underneath. Any ideas on what kind to get. Wood, copper, vinyl, or aluminum? — ALLISON, Newton

A. Copper would be appropriate in a Victorian, but cost might be a deterrent. Besides, copper is so pricey that I wouldn’t put it past thieves to take down copper gutters for scrap. Since wood lasted 50 years, why not try it again? Cost could be less than copper. Finally, you can get aluminum, but it must be the same size as the wood ones, and be of the heaviest duty aluminum. Nailing or screwing into end grain to hold gutters in place is a little iffy, but if the fasteners held on for 50 years, there is always a way. Strap hangers could be used.

Peter Hotton also appears in the g section on Thursdays. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton ( also chats online 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to

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